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Young curator Ariella Wolens gave David Brandon Geeting and me a private gallery tour of the show she curated at Paul Kasmin in Chelsea, New York, entitled “The Written Trace.” I was curious to see how she would play with the works of titans such as Ed Ruscha, along with works of younger artists, and what would be her fresh take on it. The show illustrates the evolution of the written word through different mediums and different eras. Hop on our audio tour to hear Ariella comment on a few works below.

“The more we’re trying to articulate an emotion, the further we get away from it,” says Ariella about the paradox of using words to label our inner experiences. In “The Written Trace,” she’s gathered artworks from different eras to address how art fills the interstice between significance and symbol, meaning and beauty, mystery and humor. Here, each artwork addresses how the written word in a frame (a video frame, a paper page or a canvas) tacks on its original meaning through the artist’s process.

For example, Robert Crumb and Ed Ruscha both use text in their works. By manipulating their shapes and context, the two artists both manage to change their poetics, although in very different fashions. Besides, repetition of text in Song Dong or Baldessari’s works, for instance, also denatures the significance as it dulls it. Loss of value also appears with ubiquitous writing (graffiti artist Shaun Crawford). On the contrary, the function of illumination of single letters in religious books (“The Hours of Jacques Hurault”) aims at enhancing as it makes sacred the meaning. Humorous puns also set the meaning of the written words to unexpected levels. Hence, the piece of art can be seen as an echo chamber where the meanings reverberate (Ivan Navarro), deflate (Evan DeGraw) or reaches different realms of imagination (Rose Salane).